Russian security chief calls opposition leader to ‘duel’

In this file photo taken on March 27, 2017 Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) and the National Guard chief Viktor Zolotov take part in a gala evening marking the Day of Russia's National Guard in Moscow. (AFP)
Updated 11 September 2018
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Russian security chief calls opposition leader to ‘duel’

MOSCOW: Russian President Vladimir Putin’s close ally and chief of the National Guard on Tuesday challenged Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny to a “duel” and threatened to turn him into “steak.”
Wearing his uniform, Viktor Zolotov spouted threats and insults in a video message to Navalny, who last month alleged corruption in the National Guard and is currently in jail for violating anti-protest legislation.
“You, Mr. Navalny, have never faced payback,” Zolotov said, after rubbishing Navalny’s corruption expose as slander. “Nobody has given you a quality kick in the ass. In a way you feel it in your liver.”
“I simply call you to a duel, to the ring, to the tatami, to wherever. And I promise to make a juicy beefsteak out of you in just a few minutes,” he said in the video posted on the National Guard’s official website.
Navalny in late August published a video he addressed to the rank and file employees of the National Guard, the agency tasked with dispersing Russian protests.
Agency leadership, he tells the soldiers, “literally takes food out of your mouth for profit.”
The expose alleges that the agency purchases poor quality food for its soldiers for over-inflated prices.
Navalny is not set to finish his 30-day jail term until late this month. His team however reacted to Zolotov’s message with a mixture of horror and ridicule.
The video has “open, very serious threats,” said Navalny’s former head of campaign staff Leonid Volkov on Twitter, adding that Zolotov “must have forgotten” that Navalny is locked up and can’t reply.
“They can’t even hire good PR people with their stolen billions,” wrote Lyubov Sobol, who works for Navalny’s anti-corruption center. “Six minutes of threats and not a single word to refute facts and evidence in the investigation.”

Previously Navalny had alleged Zolotov himself — a former head of Putin’s security detail who was appointed to the current newly-created post in 2016 — was “very rich” and that his family owned several luxury properties.
Zolotov in his video said that he was “not a poor man” but went on to accuse Navalny of being a “rotten” American agent.
“When you were still using the potty, I had served in the army, was an outstanding worker of Communist labor, worked in industry and then went into business,” Zolotov said.
“And who are you, Navalny, I want to understand what you’re made of,” he said.
“It’s clear you’ve been made in an American test tube... you are tasked with pouring mud over everything... to destabilize the country’s political and economic situation,” he said.
“You have no country, no Fatherland.”
Zolotov added that “if you use offensive or slanderous language against me and members of my family, I promise you that before I step over you and wipe my feet on you, I will host a show for all employees of the Russian National Guard.”
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov appeared to endorse Zolotov’s message, though he denied that it was approved by Putin.
“Sometimes you can use any measures against blatant slander,” he told journalists, adding that the Kremlin does not see it as a threat of physical violence.


Unspeakable grief: A husband, wife and three children wiped out in Sri Lanka

Updated 23 April 2019
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Unspeakable grief: A husband, wife and three children wiped out in Sri Lanka

  • The Gomez family gather for funeral of a husband and wife and their three sons
  • They were brutally killed as they attended Easter Sunday Mass at Colombo’s St. Joseph’s Shrine

COLOMBO: The dark wooden coffins, sitting side by side, attested to one family’s unspeakable grief.
The Gomez family gathered Tuesday to say a final farewell to five loved ones — a son, a daughter-in-law and three young grandsons — brutally killed as they attended Easter Sunday Mass at Colombo’s St. Joseph’s Shrine.
“All family, all generation, is lost,” said Joseph Gomez, the family patriarch, as tears welled in his eyes. Dozens of family members and neighbors were gathered in his simple home, where the sound of hymns sung by mourners gently wafted in the background and candles flickered beside three coffins. The bodies of two grandsons have yet to be recovered.
Across Sri Lanka, Tuesday was a national day of mourning as families began to lay to rest the more than 320 victims of the bomb blasts that struck a half-dozen churches and hotels in the island nation.
For the Gomez family, the loss was unfathomable: A 33-year-old son, Berlington Joseph, the young man’s 31-year-old wife Chandrika Arumugam, and their three boys, 9-year-old Bevon, 6-year-old Clavon and baby Avon, who would have turned 1 next week. A funeral card with a photo of the family clutched in his hands, the elder Gomez wailed: “I can’t bear this on me, I can’t bear this.”
“My eldest son, my eldest son,” he sobbed as he laid bouquets of red roses and brightly colored daisies on the largest coffin. Next to it was a tiny coffin, a photo of little Avon tucked into a wooden frame nearby.
The coffins, draped with long white tassels, were then carried to a Colombo cemetery and lowered into side-by-side graves.
At St. Joseph’s Shrine, dozens of mourners gathered outside, lighting candles and praying in unison for the victims of Sunday’s blasts as heavily armed soldiers stood guard.
At St. Sebastian Church in Negombo, a funeral service was held Tuesday for victims killed there as they worshipped, led by Cardinal Malcom Ranjith. The church was heavily guarded by hundreds of army, air force and police troops, and soldiers were deployed every 15 feet along the streets of the city some 20 miles north of Colombo.
Throughout the country, people observed a three-minute silence for the victims of the near-simultaneous attacks at three churches and three luxury hotels, and three other related blasts, the deadliest violence to strike Sri Lanka in a decade.
The Sri Lankan government has blamed the attack on National Towheed Jamaar, a little-known local extremist group, and on Tuesday, the Daesh group also claimed responsibility, though it provided no proof it was involved and has made unsubstantiated claims in the past.